For those not in academic biomedical research, “PI” stands for “principal investigator”; i.e., the person who wrote the grant that funds the laboratory effort and (usually) the leader of the laboratory. Unlike Revere, I’ve only been a PI for around 8 years and an NIH-funded PI for only around two and a half years, I still remember what it was like to be a graduate student and then a postdoc laboring away under my PI, all for the greater glory of his name (and, hopefully, mine), as well as to produce preliminary data to bolster the next grant application.
I haven’t decided which kind of PI I am. On most days, I’m probably the Laid Back type; other days, the Science Wonk or the Big Talker. On rare occasions I can be the Psycho or Control Freak (these times usually coincide with the month before a grant deadline), but that’s very uncommon–at most a couple of times a year. There are also times when I like to think I’m a Rising Star, but that may be an exaggeration. One thing’s for sure, I’m definitely not the DemiGod, nor am I likely ever to be one.
Another odd observation is that both PIs that I worked for for an extended period of time most resemble Big Talkers. They thought big, talked big, and emphasized the big picture, motivating me to find my niche in the machine trying to advance the overall project and keeping me motivated about how important it was. That’s not a bad thing.
If you’re a PI, what kind of PI are you? If you’re a graduate student or postdoc, what kind of a PI is your PI?